An Englishman In New York (And Other Locations) – Part 2

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You rejoin me setting out from Boston for 2 weeks of adventure.

Before that though, and barely out of the garage:

I passed too close to a parked car and heard a loud “bang” which immediately instilled panic. I went to hit the brake but unfamiliarity with the pedal setup meant that I landed back down on the accelerator.

And we leapt across the road before I righted my feet and brought us to a stop.

The owner of the car I’d hit was right there. He took a look and waved us off, saying “no damage done.” The bang was the sound of our wing mirrors hitting, and somehow they both remained intact. It was something of a miracle that we hadn’t hit anything else in my panic.

Beforehand Chris had been laughing at the prospect of me having to drive. He was still laughing but now it evidenced nervous terror rather than amusement.

He hid it well.

Things were safer on the highway. I was fine on the open road (these things are relative, it took an hour for my foot to stop shaking). It was navigating the traffic in built up areas that was the problem.

We looked at the road signs and headed for Cape Cod. With no more planning than that we just stayed on Highway 6 until we ran out of land.

Turned out we were in Provincetown.

We found a campsite which we had entirely to ourselves. It was beautiful, a mix of small quaint town set against the desolate nature of the dunes and sand with the Atlantic as backdrop. I noticed that a lot of the people we passed were same sex pairs. My powers of observation deduced that perhaps this was a popular spot for the LGBT+ community. There were two of us and we were both men so in that sense we fitted right in.

We got speaking to the doorman to a bar who Chris questioned for local insight as to where would be a good place to meet women. The doorman found this hilarious, telling us we were in the wrong town for that. There were two nightclubs; one where all the men went and another where all the women went and if we were lucky we might just find a woman in there that was bisexual. 

As ever with Chris, hope reigned over expectation. His desire to promote cross-Atlantic relations led to him pestering me until I agreed to go with him to the club for women. It about summed up our friendship: once he’d had a drink, there was one thing on his mind, usually requiring me to make sure he made it home safely at the end of the night in my role as the sensible one.

Once again, we did not fit in.

There were around 20 women, all in a tight knit group and all of whom looked mid forties and up. We may as well have been invisible for all the notice they took of us.

We had one drink, Chris admitted defeat and we headed back to the previous bar so the doorman could have a good laugh at us returning so soon.

Trust us:
This guy? He’s in stiches.

Leaving Provincetown, we invested in a road map and set off on a haphazard tour through Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York state. A mix of picking places we’d heard of or just randomly hitting the road and deciding along the way to stop somewhere or following a road sign that took our interest.

We started off driving back the way we’d come, past Boston and onto Salem. We’d heard of that thanks to the witches. Sadly, none were around. Chris harbored a desire to visit Maine – that was, until he told a bartender who’d picked up on our accents and asked what we were up to. The mention of Maine provoked the crushing response “Why the f— would you want to go to Maine? There’s nothing there but lobsters.”

Neither of us were keen on lobsters. So Maine was out.

We drove round in loops, cut back across ourselves and if we’d had a GPS it would have looked like we were trapped in a maze. There was Woodstock, The Catskills, Watkins Glen, Saratoga Springs, Bash Bish Falls (we liked the name) and Lake Placid. I’d heard of Lake Placid due to the 1980 Winter Olympics and the miracle on ice. Chris had seen Lake Placid the film about the big crocodile. One of us was more disappointed than the other at the reality.

Looking at the map, we saw that it wasn’t all that far from Lake Placid to Canada and onto Toronto.

Neither of us had been to Canada so may as well cross the border

When you rent a car over here, you normally have to specify if you intend to take it to another country. I’ve no idea if we were breaking any clause in the rental agreement by leaving the US, but we weren’t about to let that stop us. After all, Chris was now doing the majority of the driving having decided that the risk of him driving without insurance outweighed the trauma of sitting in the passenger seat.

We crossed into Canada and broke up the drive stopping at a small town I’ve long since forgotten the name of. We picked up pizzas and onto the supermarket for snacks and beers to take back to the motel. We walked up and down the aisles wondering where they were hiding the beer.

A staff member gave us the unfortunate news that to buy beer in Ontario we had to go to a registered LCBO outlet, then he looked at his watch and delivered the final blow that they would be closed now.

What kind of a civilized country was this?

In Toronto we went to see the Blue Jays, where I met The Who’s number one fan, selling hot dogs. It made his day to find that I lived in Leeds and had seen many gigs at the venue where Live At Leeds had been recorded. Over the whole of our trip there was always a positive reaction to locals hearing our accent.

And, especially in some of the more out of the way towns we passed through: wondering why we were there.

There’s a perception over here that Americans think that Britain = London and can’t comprehend there’s more than just the capital. That only happened once. Checking into a motel the owner asked:

“Are you from London?

“No, Leeds.

“So whereabouts in London is that?” ”

“It isn’t.”

“But you’re English?”

And so it went on as we were required to detail the geographical layout of England for him.

Supermarkets also highlighted another big difference between Britain and the US. Seeing a wall filled with guns available to buy alongside the toilet roll, coffee and ice cream really drove home how far apart we are in some respects.

From Toronto it was only a short drive to Niagara Falls so off we went. That was another surprise.

Literally no idea there was a whole town right next to it, all geared up for parting tourists from their money.

They don’t show you that angle on the photos.

We stayed on the Canadian side and went wild with the accommodations. So far, we’d either stayed on campsites or motels of varying quality. Some little independents with attentive sweet elderly owners, or that one in Saratoga Springs alongside a busy highway which lured us in with a sign mentioning a swimming pool.

We checked in, went round the back and found the pool was drained and had become an ad hoc storage unit for whatever they couldn’t be bothered to take off site.

We spent about as much on one night in an actual proper hotel with a room overlooking the falls as we did the rest of the time driving round. Still, we did pick up a voucher giving us 2-for-1 at the all-you-can -eat buffet, which we more than took advantage of, in an effort to consume as much back as possible.

Crossing back into the US it was back to campsite living. Another overnight stay in a small town on the way to somewhere else. There was one other tent pitched, which had a middle aged couple and an elderly woman in it with a Trans Am and small trailer parked next to it. They didn’t look like typical campers. As we sat at a picnic table in the evening the couple came over. Just as we were curious as to what they were doing there, they had the same thought about us.

Turned out the elderly lady was the woman’s mother. There had been a fire at their apartment a few days before and they were now in effect homeless and that trailer contained the entirety of their belongings that they’d managed to rescue.

They’d been given a tent and left to their own resources. They were going to church the next morning to appeal to the congregation for assistance, whether financial or some place to stay.

Despite the bad hand they’d been dealt they were trying to stay positive, once we’d heard their tale they had plenty of questions for us about Britain.

Maybe it took their minds off their predicament for a couple of hours. The next morning we said goodbye, gave them a few dollars from our meagre funds, feeling like it didn’t really amount to much, and wished them luck.

It was time to get the car back to Boston but before that one last detour.

Provincetown had been so nice. Even though it was in the wrong direction, it was back to Cape Cod for one more night. This time we found a campsite near Chatham and decided we’d go to the movies. While we were in there being underwhelmed by Pearl Harbor there was a torrential rain storm outside. We got back to the campsite to find the tent now an island surrounded by a huge puddle of water. A motel it was , then.

Next morning we got the Windstar back to Boston. There was a lady in front us returning her keys and arguing about the excess miles she’d racked up and was now shocked to find she had to pay extra for.

Two weeks of driving uncoordinated loops round the country had seen us put an impressive 2000+ miles on the clock. Chris gave me a look that resembled the one when we collected the car and I had lurched uncontrolled across busy traffic. How much is this going to cost us?! I assured him not to worry, that I’d selected an unlimited mileage package. Internally I was bricking it that there would be some clause I’d missed that meant we were about to be presented with a hefty bill.

Having eventually persuaded Mrs. Angry in front of us that she had to pay up, it all went smoothly for us. There was a raising of the eyebrows at our mileage, but it was all covered. They looked round the car and there wasn’t a scratch on it. Not even on the wing mirror.

Not that they noticed anyway.

We got a coach back to New York and checked back into 110th Street for one more night heading up to the roof to enjoy a few beers and the view over Central Park. It had been an adventure.

Next summer we’d be back on the road, this time through Europe on an another Magical Mystery Tour.

Though maybe not so magical.

As it would see a parting of the ways between me and Chris.

That’s for next time… 

(to be continued…)

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JJ Live At Leeds

From across the ocean, a middle aged man, a man without a plan, a man full of memories, a man like JJ.

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Phylum of Alexandria
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February 13, 2023 9:05 am

Another great chapter.

I worked in Montreal for two years. Due the timing of my marriage, my work visa, and a conference I had to attend, I was forced to settle into my new apartment after each day of the conference had concluded.

My first major “this ain’t the States” moment was heading out of the city proper to a Sears so I could buy a bed and other furniture, only to find the whole building dark, with gates closed. I found a guard and asked why everything was closed, and he looked at me like I was crazy. “It’s a Wednesday. It’s after 5. What do you expect?”

Fun times.  😀 

thegue
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thegue
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February 13, 2023 9:30 am

We went to Quebec City for Christmas this year, and while it was F***ING COLD, the people there were amazing. I tried to speak as much French as I knew (very little), and I’d heard the Quebecois to be a bit…aloof, but they were incredible.

minor major 7th
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February 13, 2023 10:41 am

As one of the Canadians on this forum, allow me to say that, IMHO, Montreal is the best city in the country.
And I say that as an insufferable Torontonian.

cappiethedog
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February 14, 2023 12:13 am

Yeah, but you have a cool film festival. And if you wanted to, you could visit David Cronenberg’s childhood home.

thegue
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February 13, 2023 9:29 am

Funny story:

There’s a group of us that get together at the beginning of each baseball season to “draft” our fantasy teams. Most of the guys went to the University of Penn; I was included since a good friend of mine from high school went, and I’d started hanging out at Penn rather than my school sophomore year, so I knew everyone.

One of the staunch Republican from those years became an enigma, so by the early 90s he would join us for the weekend, but disappear at night, then return early in the morning. A few suspected he was gay, but how does one broach the subject?

I just knew he listened to some great music, and he and I used to go clubbing in college, so one night I joined him. We were in Boston, and he took me to a place called The Loft. I lost him inside the club (which was 3 stories high), and finally left on my own around 6 am.

He arrived back in time for the fantasy baseball draft around 9.

Months later, I was in Boston with a bunch of friends, and we closed Venus de Milo, a club located behind Fenway Park’s right field stands. It was 2 am, and we couldn’t decide where to go…until I remembered The Loft.

We grabbed a taxi, I mentioned the name of the club and the driver took off. There was a HUGE line waiting to get in; I was pumped. As we talked, I tapped the guy in front of me – “Excuse me, is tonight a private party or open to the public?”

The guy told us it was open, and offered us a coupon for 50% off that night. Now I was really pumped!

A few moments later, we’re next in line, and my buddy asked to see the coupon. He flipped it over, eyes grew big and yelled “GUE!”

On the side I’d never looked at, there was a naked male model, holding a champagne bottle over his nether-regions, its cork off and ejaculating champagne everyone. The caption?

HOT MUSIC. HOT MEN.

The bouncer asked for our IDs. I didn’t know what to say. “Sir, is tonight homosexual night?” (I’m sorry, it was 1992 and I didn’t know any better)

He nodded.

“Are there any women in here tonight?”

He shook his head.

We left the line, and then noticed the entire line was men.

My friend came out of the closet in 1999.

mt58
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February 13, 2023 9:41 am

“As it would see a parting of the ways between me and Chris.”

Woah. I did not see that coming. Staying tuned, for sure…

Pauly Steyreen
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February 13, 2023 10:55 am
Reply to  mt58

Chris reminds me of the character Colin from Love Actually. The guy who can’t wait to go to the United States ’cause American women will go crazy for his accent. (Which of course happens in the movie; real life Chris may not have been so lucky.)

dutchg8r
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February 14, 2023 4:44 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

That’s exactly who I pictured as well!!

minor major 7th
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February 13, 2023 10:46 am

I am happy that you got to enjoy a brief stay in my home town.

Accents aside, the pronunciation of Toronto is always a give away.
If one actually articulates the “t”s then we know you’re not from around here.

If you want to sound like a true Torontonian turn the first “t” into a soft “ch”: “cheronto”.

I remember when the whole family went to see Adele. She made a small joke about this.

As for the “strip” in Niagara Falls. It ain’t much, but always fun. Around the ages of 21 – 24 it becomes a de facto get away when you and your friends cant think of anywhere to go on the weekend.

cappiethedog
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February 14, 2023 2:02 am

My neck of the woods is like a foreign country in the sense that I can’t buy a gun in the supermarket. I remember Robin Williams’ Live at the Met. He riffed on policemen in the UK. I believe Williams said: “Stop. Or I’ll say stop again.”

dutchg8r
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February 14, 2023 4:47 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

Here’s a question cappie – do they even have public hunting lands out your way? Or even private gun clubs? Or is it just Fish, Fish, Fish…. and fish some more?

cappiethedog
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February 14, 2023 5:16 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

I had to look this up. I didn’t realize we had deer(Axis and Black-tail). They’re on Maui, Molokai, and Oracle. My quick google search tells me that there are no private gun clubs. Oh, we do have public hunting lands. Tourists and locals alike go off-trail when they hike, and get lost. It never occurred to me ’til now that being accidentally shot would be the best incentive to stay on the path.

Animal activism isn’t really a thing here. There is no public outcry to save the feral pig. At my former working place, everybody was so excited for me when a Down to Earth opened across from us. If I could talk in front of people, I’d be in academia. I had a blue collar job. Nobody could quite wrap their heads around the concept of vegetarianism.

I missed a chance to further bond with my mother’s relatives by not fishing. I have mixed emotions about this.

dutchg8r
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February 14, 2023 4:41 pm

Ahh, the joys of being 20-something and having the energy and go-with-it attitude to do a whirlwind road trip….

I legit need a nap after reading that JJ, I’m exhausted.

Fun fact – my family lineage runs so deep in the Boston area that we’ve found ancestors who were on BOTH sides of the Salem Witch Trials. Accusers and accusees. So I once was a newt, but I’ve since gotten better (If you actually got that reference, congrats on having a bonkers mind like me!)

Pauly Steyreen
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February 14, 2023 11:18 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

I feel happy! I feel happy!

(Definitely Canon material…)

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